After being disappointed with the current preview versions of Windows 8, I downloaded the Office 2013 beta fearing a slew of my favorite features to be thrown out the window once again. My paranoia proved misplaced, Microsoft appears to have a solid upgrade coming, which will please both business power-users and home users.
In particular, the new Metro features that should benefit home users and mobile device users don’t come at the cost of productivity for a Windows 7 PC power-user. All in all, the initial beta appears to be a worthy successor to Office 2010 and worth the cost to upgrade.
Specific Office 2013 Beta Topics Below:
- The Cloud and Office 2013
- Tablet Compatibility
- A Cleaner, Metro Style and Look
- Purchase Model Changes
- Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and Outlook
- The Bottom line
The Cloud and Office 2013
Similar to Windows 8, Office 2013 is centered around the “ready for cloud” business model that Microsoft is aggressively pursuing. Office 2013 will be sold in conjunction with other major cloud projects underway at Microsoft. Namely: Office 365, Skydrive, Lync Online, and elements of the Skype services.
A perfect example of this is the fact that the download site for the beta is already using a revamped version of what originally started as the Office 365 Administration Portal (Note: it features a different portal if you download the home premium trial). In case you are curious, you can trial the home version here.
The integration with SkyDrive (Microsoft’s cloud-based storage) is central to the the company’s cloud strategy. Office 2013 links into SkyDrive throughout it’s infrastructure. You can open any document on SkyDrive within any Office application and easily save them back. Currently, only OneNote is using automated syncing, but it is heavily rumored that Microsoft is pursuing a path where all Office applications will automatically sync (similar to SharePoint Online integration experienced by Office 365 customers). Since auto-sync isn’t quite there yet, you currently have to remember to save every document to the cloud when you are done. Clearly, this leaves much lacking. Given that “cloud” is a key element of their strategy, it is unlikely that they don’t have a road-map to integrate auto-sync.
The lack of success to this component of Office 2013 is a bit surprising considering the technology already exists in other Microsoft products. SharePoint has been doing this for years. Also, Microsoft SkyDrive Client app can be installed on to Phones, iOS, Andriod, or other devices to automatically sync all documents in local folders to the cloud. Essentially, customers can enable auto-syncing if they configure it correctly, but Microsoft hasn’t integrated dummy proof versions of this quite yet (at least not in this beta release).
Getting Office 2013 touchscreen ready was a core focus of the product’s vision. Microsoft is betting heavily on the idea that tablets are the future of PCs. For the desktop, it offers a host of smart updates and cloud integration that make it compelling; But the huge change, is in touchscreen use. Similar to Windows 8, Office 2013 was re-built from the ground and optimized for mobile devices. This includes understanding the limitations of the touchscreen interface for creating content.
Holding your finger over misspelled words will open up Office’s list of spell corrections. In fact, hold your finger on virtually anything and a list of options will be brought up (similar to how right-clicking with a mouse works).
On smaller screens, Office 2013 is smart enough to identify that the ribbon should disappear by default, allowing easier manipulation of the rest of the work area (You can still turn on the ribbon if needed). Additionally, the touchscreen virtual keyboard is sensitive enough to allow typing at nearly full speed.
Overall, the experience is a tremendous improvement over everything Microsoft has released to date for tablets. Microsoft has clearly invested heavily into this experience and will continue to do so. We should continue to see improvements as further versions come out.
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